The Kanwaka Literary Club will mark its 100th anniversary with a luncheon Thursday at Stull United Methodist Church.
The ladies of Kanwaka Literary Club have shared a century of Easter Sundays and Thanksgiving Thursdays.
For 100 years -- every other Thursday since mid-April 1899 -- they have traveled to meetings in buggies or sedans or four-wheel-drives. They've worried over wars and the Depression and collectively wondered "What is this world coming to?"
They've rejoiced in the births of babies and grieved at members' passings. They've laughed together and shared their hardships.
Kanwaka Literary Club was formed 100 years ago by three women -- Mrs. J.R. Topping, Miss May Etta Richardson and Miss Leonora Ricker -- who had migrated from the New England states with their families to settle the rugged land around Lawrence and were in need of intellectual and conversational stimulation.
"It was first the Summer Literary Club," Margaret Wulfkuhle said. "They traveled by buggy, and met from May to November. Now we meet from September to May.
"I joined in 1928, but I've been coming to meetings since I was 6 months old."
Wulfkuhle's grandmother, Mrs. Osgood Colman, was an original member of the literary club. Wulfkuhle's mother, Mrs. Asa Colman, was a member. Wulfkuhle's daughters -- Virginia Wulfkuhle, an archeologist for the state of Kansas, and Linda Cecchini, a librarian living in Wisconsin -- are also members.
"When Linda started school, she told the teacher she would go every day but Thursday because she said 'That's my club day,'" Wulfkuhle said with a laugh.
The rules of the Kanwaka Literary Club, which has a membership of about 25 women, are simple:
- They meet in each other's homes, and rotate responsibility for the meetings' programs.
- Members must be voted in.
- Girls are eligible to be members when they complete the ninth grade.
- Dues are $2 a year.
Ruth Ice was voted in as a member in 1975 and has been the club's historian ever since.
"I keep the can," she said.
For years, club members used a five-gallon cherry can as the depository for their records and photographs. Today, they've graduated to using a bread box, and members have seen that the club's secretary books from 1908 to 1991 have been placed on microfilm at the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka.
"No doubt we are one of the oldest rural literary groups in Kansas," Wulfkuhle said.
Irene Sperry, who is in her mid-80s and likely the oldest member of the group, said she comes to almost every meeting.
"There's communication between us and there's always an interesting program," she said. "That keeps somebody like me alive."
But times are changing.
Some of the club's younger members have moved away. Others nearby have careers, busy family schedules and less time to attend meetings.
"Because I work, it's hard to get here," said Robin Holladay, whose mother, Jean Etherton, is the current club president. "I try to come on Founders Day and holidays. My New Year's resolution was to come more often."
Lori Gruver, who lives in Centropolis, makes it to meetings about twice a year.
"I used to come when we were kids," she said, adding that her mother, Mary Stauffer, her grandmother, Irene Skinner, and her sister, Beverly Wells, are members. "I come now when I can.
"I wonder what's going to happen when all these ladies are gone. Most of us have careers. The way things have changed, it's hard to tell what's going to happen to the club."
Wulfkuhle believes the club will survive for a number of years because it continues to bring a sense of belonging -- a sense of community -- to its members.
Marcella Anderson agrees.
"We're such a close group," she said.
Kanwaka Literary Club will mark its 100th anniversary during its annual Founders Day luncheon at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Stull United Methodist Church.
-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some of the programs presented at the Kanwaka Literary Club meetings, according to records filed with the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka.